Saturday, 30 January 2010

Toyota chief apologizes for massive vehicle recall

TOKYO - Toyota's president has apologized for the recall of millions of cars around the world due to faulty accelerator pedals, in a setback that has tarnished the Japanese giant's reputation for quality.

"We're extremely sorry to have made customers feel uneasy," Akio Toyoda told public broadcaster NHK on the sidelines of the Davos forum in Switzerland, in his first public remarks on the recall since it went global this week.

Toyota was trying to establish the facts behind the problem and give customers an explanation to ease their anxiety, he said.

Toyota pulled up to 1.8 million vehicles in Europe on Friday -- the latest in a series of recalls that have affected almost eight million Toyota cars worldwide -- more than its entire 2009 global sales of 7.8 million vehicles.

Toyota, which overtook General Motors in 2008 as the top-selling automaker, has been bedeviled by a series of safety issues that have raised questions about whether it sacrificed its legendary quality to become world number one.

Toyota's woes went into overdrive last week when it announced a recall of 2.3 million automobiles in the United States due to the accelerator pedal fears.

It is also recalling almost 5.3 million US vehicles to replace floor mats that could trap accelerator pedals.

At least 1.7 million of the cars already recalled outside Europe potentially suffer from both problems, according to Toyota.

In another hit to Japanese makers' reputation for safety, Honda recalled 646,000 of its cars worldwide Friday due to a potential fire risk linked to a window switch problem that is reported to have killed a child in South Africa.

The move affects Fit/Jazz cars made between 2002 and 2008 in Japan, China, Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia and India, Honda said.

Toyota for its part said Thursday that parts supplier CTS had begun making pedals based on a new design that resolved the problem and the two firms were testing a remedy.

Engineers were believed to be putting the finishing touches to a repair whereby it would insert a "spacer" in the pedal mechanism in order to increase the tension in a spring and reduce the risk of sticking.

Toyoda, the Toyota family scion named a year ago to steer the Japanese automaker through the global economic downturn, faces perhaps his biggest challenge yet handling a widening safety recall.

The Toyota president had kept a low profile during the week as the company founded by his grandfather more than 70 years ago battled to contain the fallout from the accelerator pedal problems.

How Toyoda -- an avid motor racing fan -- handles the quality problems is seen as key to his legacy and the future of the company, long lauded for its vehicles' safety and reliability.

The only statements posted on the company's global website this week relate the group's sales plan for next year and a tree-planting project in the Philippines.

Toyoda -- at 53 years old relatively young for a top Japanese executive -- was long groomed for the top job and became the first member of the founding family in 14 years to take the reins.

The family scion has put the brakes on Toyota's rapid expansion, which left it vulnerable to the global economic crisis.

Toyota's shares suffered another drop on Friday, closing down 1.96% at 3,490 yen -- having plunged about 14% during the week.

A key US House of Representatives panel said on Thursday that it would hold a hearing on the accelerator issues on February 25.

Jueteng thrives in Batangas

TANAUAN City, Batangas - Illegal numbers game “jueteng” still exists in Batangas after the arrest of 3 'cubradors' in separate operations here Thursday morning, police said.

Senior Superintendent Alberto Supapo, Batangas police provincial director, identified the suspects as Mercelita Perez,18 of Barangay Poblacion 7; Arcangel Torres, 46 of TM Kalaw St. Poblacion 5; and Nazario Perez, 55 of Barangay Sambat, all in Tanauan City.

Supapo said the suspects were arrested while collecting bets in their respective barangays by elements of the provincial police office's Anti-Illegal Gambling Task Force.

He said the suspects were collecting jueteng bets under the guise of collecting collecting bets for small town lottery (STL).

Police recovered from the suspects 21 of STL (small town lottery) lastillas, 3 booklets of STL collection form, P589.00 bet collection and several gambling paraphernalia.

“We’re still verifying the jueteng operator’s identity, ayaw kasing magsalita ng mga nahuli naming mga kubrador kung kanino sila nagtratrabaho” Supapo said.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Gilas seeks Dubai final vs tough Lebanon

DUBAI – What they lack in manpower and ceiling, Smart Gilas Pilipinas hopes to make up with its speed and outside shooting as it guns for a finals berth against a fancied Al Riyadi of Lebanon side in the 21st Dubai Invitational at the Al Ahli Indoor Stadium here Friday.

The Filipinos ran a taller Al Jazeera of Egypt side to the ground with their speed, hustle and outside firepower to complete their fightback from 15 points down for an 82-78 victory in their quarterfinal clash last Thursday and a semis duel with Al Riyadi, a team teeming with American players.

That includes CJ Giles, the former Smart Gilas import, Nate Johnson and Shawn Colson, a naturalized American-born player in Joe Vogel, a US-born Lebanese in Matt Freije and a Canadian-raised Lebanese in Ali Mahmoud.

“I know Lebanon is a big team. We were actually joking that this is an American team plus three imports and members of Lebanese squad,” said Smart Gilas’ Serbian coach Rajko Toroman.

“That means they’re very strong, they’ve one of the best players in the tournament (Johnson), they have Vogel, they have CJ Giles, they have one point guard who is playing in the NBA (Colson), three or four more playing in the NBA,” said Toroman.

The RP cagers, who continued to defy the odds by stringing victories after an opening day loss to Syria, will indeed need a lot of luck and a big fighting heart to overcome the Lebanese team.

“Our players didn’t play in the professional league until now so that makes Al Riyadi the big favorite. But you know these guys showed the heart and I believe it will be a tough time for Al Riyadi tomorrow (Friday),” Toroman said.

Al Riyadi also boasts of players with NBA experience, including Colson, who saw action for the Atlanta Hawks and the Houston Rockets in 2000 and 2001, Freije, who suited up for the Miami Heat, New Orleans Hornets and Atlanta Hawks from 2004-2007, and Vogel, who played for the Seattle Supersonics in 1996 and Giles for the Los Angeles Lakers a few years back.

But Toroman said they will continue to make up for their lack in size with speed, outside shooting and a big fighting heart.

“These guys showed they’re very respectable because if you miss something in size you got something from your heart for playing for the country, pride for the country and I’m very, very proud of them because today (Thursday) they showed they’re really, really respectable team and in the future this team will say something in Asian basketball,” said Toroman.

“The last time we won over this team. They played Ali Mahmoud, Ali El Turk, Nate Johnson in Jakarta and they have a good team but we won the game,” said Toroman.

“But I think they’re stronger now than in Jakarta. Ali Mahmoud is the key to their play because he’s now in top shape and he pushes the team,” said Toroman.

JBC opens nominations for next chief justice

MANILA, Philippines - The Judicial Bar and Council on Wednesday announced the opening for application or recommendation for the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which will be vacated by Chief Justice Reynato Puno when he retires on May 17.

The JBC, through its ex-officio secretary and Clerk of Court, lawyer Ma. Luisa Villarama, said the council will be accepting applications and recommendations not later than February 4, 2010. The council will also accept sworn complaints, written reports or opposition against any candidates not later than February 1, 2010.

Among the top contenders for the Chief Justice post are the five most senior associate justices of the SC namely Antonio Carpio, Renato Corona, Conchita Carpio-Carpio Morales, Presbitero Velasco and Antonio Eduardo Nachura.

The JBC on Monday unanimously agreed to start the selection process for the new Supreme Court chief but did not reach a decision on when to submit the list of its recommendations to President Arroyo.

Many legal experts say the JBC can only submit its list of nominees when there is already a vacancy, not before.

Party-list group Bayan Muna on Tuesday filed House Bill 7109 explicitly prohibiting the President from making appointments to judicial posts, including that of chief justice of the Supreme Court, during the period covered by the constitutional ban on midnight appointments.

Bayan Muna representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro CasiƱo, and Neri Colmenares maintained that the 1987 Constitution is clear that President Arroyo cannot appoint the successor of Chief Justice Reynato Puno. They said they filed the bill to remove any doubt on the unconstitutionality of proposals that President Arroyo can ignore the ban on midnight appointments.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Philippines to grow 4.2% this year: HSBC

MANILA, Philippines - Prospects are bright for the Philippines this year as its economy is expected to expand by 4.2%, and its currency seen to hit P43.5 to the dollar by year-end.

Frederic Neumann, HSBC senior economist, said the country's economic growth for 2010 will be supported by stronger remittances and higher government spending.

"Looking ahead, the Philippines will see a sharp rebound in growth," Neumann told reporters.

Despite the rosy outlook, however, Neumann warned that the country's inflation rate may rise to 5.1% this year from last year's 3.2%.

Given this, he called on the central bank to begin tightening monetary policy.

The Philippine economy was expected to expand by a meager 1.1% in 2009. For the first 3 quarters last year, the country posted a 0.7% growth in gross domestic product (GDP).

GDP figures for the last quarter and the whole of 2009 are set to be released on January 28.

Quiet please! Noise irks Japan's commuters the most

TOKYO - Taking the train in Japan and want to avoid annoying fellow passengers? Keep conversation to a whisper, turn down your iPod and put your cellphone on vibration mode, a recent survey by the railway association showed.

Many foreigners who ride on Japan's vast network of subways and commuter trains complain about the pushing and shoving that accompanies getting into the train and the reluctance to give up seats for senior citizens and pregnant women.

But for Japanese commuters, noise is the biggest issue, with loud conversation and music from headphones the top two offenders and cellphone ringtones in fourth place, the survey by the Association of Japanese Private Railways showed.

Applying make-up ranked as the sixth-biggest breach of rail etiquette, worse than being drunken, which at number 9 just edged out bringing strollers onto crowded trains.

Here are the top 10 examples of bad rail manners according to the association's online survey, with responses from about 4,200 people:

1. Noisy conversation, horsing around

2. Music from headphones

3. The way passengers sit

4. Cellphone ringtones and talking on phones

5. Pushing, shoving when getting on and off trains

6. Applying make-up

7. Littering

8. Sitting on the floor of the train

9. Riding the train drunk

10. Riding a crowded train with a child in a stroller

Sunday, 17 January 2010

12 wounded in Zamboanga bus ambush

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Unidentified gunmen ambushed a passenger bus in Licomo, Zamboanga City on Saturday, wounding 12 people.

The bus was on its regular route to Pagadian City with 39 passengers aboard, according to police reports.

The reports said gunmen strafed the victims at Licomo, a boundary between Zamboanga City and the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, in a suspected robbery attempt.

The military immediately set up checkpoints along the national highway while the Philippine National Police (PNP) conducted patrols in the vicinity.

The wounded passengers were brought to Ipil Hospital for treatment.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing as of posting time.

Pacquiao to hold fundraiser for Z Gorres

MANILA, Philippines – Pound-for-pound king and seven-division champion Manny Pacquiao is all set to go the United States for the promotional tour and training for his March 13 fight against Ghanaian Joshua Clottey.

He will leave for Los Angeles Sunday night in order to make it to the press conferences scheduled on Tuesday in Dallas, Texas and Wednesday in New York.

Pacquiao will defend his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title against Clottey, a former International Boxing Federation (IBF) welterweight champion, at the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.

Apart from his busy promotional schedule, Pacquiao is slated to hold a dinner fundraiser for fellow Filipino ZC Oliveros “Z” Gorres in Las Vegas, reported ABS-CBN correspondent Dyan Castillejo.

Gorres, won over Luis Melendez of Colombia in their 10-round bout in November by unanimous decision, went through an emergency brain surgery in November. The Filipino fighter suffered a left straight punch to the temple from Melendez in the 10th round which caused a blood clot in his brain.

According to PhilBoxing.com, he has been discharged from the University Medical Center (UMC) in Las Vegas after being deemed out of danger after undergoing his 2nd major surgery. (Read: Z Gorres undergoes 2nd major surgery)

Pacquiao’s adviser Mike Koncz said in a press conference that all proceeds will be given to Gorres to help him rebuild his life. He added that they are aiming to raise $500,000 for Gorres.

Returning to the ring as a fighter has been ruled out for the promising Filipino boxer because of the grave injury he suffered.

Still open to fight Mayweather

Meanwhile, Koncz added that they are not closing their doors on Floyd Mayweather, Jr., whom Pacquiao was supposed to face on March 13 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Negotiations for the Pacquiao-Mayweather super bout crumbled when the fighters’ camps disagreed on the drug testing protocol. Pacquiao even sued Mayweather and some members of his team for alleging that he was taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Koncz said Team Pacquiao believes that Mayweather did not want the fight that is why he brought up the drug testing issue.

Despite this, Koncz mentioned that they are still open to fight Mayweather just to give the fans the fight they want to see.

Pacquiao and Mayweather earlier agreed on a 50-50 split. Each fighter was estimated to earn at least $40 million to $50 million.

Koncz admitted that Pacquiao will earn less in his fight against Clottey, but it is still a “decent” amount.